How to improve your IELTS speaking score

How to improve your IELTS speaking score

When you take your IELTS speaking test, you’ll be assessed in 4 areas:

  • Fluency and coherence
  • Lexical resource (your vocabulary)
  • Grammatical range and accuracy
  • Pronunciation

The examiner will use clearly-defined criteria to assess your skills in each area. Different things you do will result in being either marked up or marked down.

Fluency and coherence

You’ll be marked up for:

  • Speaking naturally, at a similar speed to the examiner (as long as your pronunciation is good)
  • expanding answers with relevant information/details and using correct tenses and connectors
  • answering the questions directly

You’ll be marked down for:

  • long, awkward pauses
  • not answering the question completely/correctly

Advice for improving your fluency and coherence:

  • Use your preparation time to organise your thoughts – think about how to directly and clearly answer the question
  • Don’t just make a statement – always elaborate and give examples.

Lexical resource (your vocabulary)

You’ll be marked up for:

  • Using a wide range of vocabulary
  • Using appropriate words
  • Correct usage of collocations and phrasal verbs

You’ll be marked down for:

  • using words incorrectly
  • always using common and simple vocabulary

Advice for improving your lexical resource:

  • Read about a variety of subjects and keep a record of new words. Organise them by topic. Grouping words in this way will make them easier to remember.
  • Practice using them in context. Google the words to see how they are commonly used. Try to use them in conversation.
  • Review your new words every couple of days. Keep them fresh in your mind!

Grammatical range and accuracy

You’ll be marked up for:

  • knowing how to use the basic verb tenses well
  • making complex sentences, using conjunctions and connectors
  • making complex structures

You’ll be marked down for:

  • inconsistent tenses
  • always using simple sentences
  • constructing complex sentences incorrectly

Advice for improving your grammatical range and accuracy:

  • Review the difference between tenses and when each is appropriate. Check here for quick, clear English grammar revision videos.
  • Review your use of conjunctions and connectors – linking your ideas will be key in your IELTS exam.
  • Review how to use relative clauses. These are a simple way of making complex sentences and will help to boost your score.


You’ll be marked up for:

  • easy to understand pronunciation
  • speaking clearly so that every word can be understood
  • proper intonation to emphasise a certain meaning or idea
  • basic word pronunication
  • linked sound and connected speech

You’ll be marked down for:

  • repeatedly mispronounced words
  • very fast or very long answers

Advice for improving your pronunciation:

  • Don’t force a British or American accent. If it comes naturally to you, do it. If not, just focus on speaking clearly.
  • Use emphatic stress to highlight the important words. Remember that short words (articles, prepositions and conjunctions) are usually unstressed.
  • If you struggle with pronouncing English consonant sounds clearly (such as /p/ and /b/, or /g/ and /k/), practice humming words you find hard to pronounce. This will help you get the stress in the right place. This makes it easier for people to understand you even if you don’t get the sounds exactly right.

General advice:

  • Review, review, review! You’ll learn a lot of new vocabulary when you’re studying for your IELTS test. Keep it fresh by reviewing every few days.
  • Study away from distractions. Put your phone on airplane mode, close extra windows on your computer and focus. Short, focused study is better than “studying” for hours while actually checking your phone every 5 minutes.
  • Take breaks. It’s easy to feel overwhelmed when studying, so get up, take a walk, grab a drink – refresh your mind.
  • Believe in yourself! Focus on what you do well. Show the examiner your strengths and minimise your weaknesses. You can do it – I believe in you!

Are you preparing for your IELTS exam? Have you recently taken the test? What works for you?

Comment below and share your advice if you think it could help someone. We’re all on the same team – let’s make learning English easier together!





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